Fukushima Probe Focus on Regulator in Multiple Response Failure
Dec. 27 2011
When engineering professor Yotaro Hatamura took the job of heading the independent investigation into the Fukushima disaster, he said he was looking for lessons rather than culprits. He may have changed his mind.
In a 507-page report published yesterday after a six-month investigation, Hatamura reserves some of his strongest criticism for Japan's atomic power regulator, the Nuclear Industrial and Safety Agency, known as NISA.
NISA officials left the Dai-Ichi nuclear plant after the March 11 earthquake and when ordered to return by the government provided little assistance to Tokyo Electric Power Co. staff struggling to gain control of three melting reactors, according to the report.
“Monitoring the plant's status was the most important action at that time, so to evacuate was very questionable,” the report by Hatamura's 10-member team concluded. The committee found “no evidence that the NISA officials provided necessary assistance or advice.” Even though NISA's manual said to stay at the plant, their manager gave the officials permission to evacuate, according to the report, which doesn't name the manager.
The preliminary conclusions by Hatamura, who specializes in studies of industrial accidents caused by design flaws and human error, includes a slew of planning failures, breakdown in communication and operational mistakes by Tokyo Electric and the government before and after the earthquake and tsunami.
While the utility supplied the electricity that kept homes, factories and offices running in metropolitan Tokyo, the world's biggest city, lack of preparation for power failure in the Fukushima station left workers reduced to flashlights at the 864-acre plant site, the size of about 490 soccer fields.
Batteries in cell phones at the Fukushima plant started running out on March 11 and with the failure of mains power couldn't be recharged, preventing communication with the on-site emergency headquarters, according to the report.
Because the utility known as Tepco hadn't considered a tsunami overwhelming the Fukushima plant, no preparation was made for “simultaneous and multiple losses of power” causing station blackout, the document says. The blackout caused the failure of all personal handyphone system units in the plant, seriously disrupting communications among staff.
Communications became so fractured that plant manager Masao Yoshida, stationed in the emergency bunker, didn't know what some workers were doing. The high pressure coolant injection system at the No. 3 reactor was stopped by a worker without authority from plant managers, according to the report. The reactor was one of the three that melted down.
In Tokyo, the central government's response was muddled by miscommunication between two teams working on different floors of the same building, the report said.
The report also criticized the government for failing to use its system for monitoring the spread of radiation in calculating evacuation areas. While the monitoring tool lacked sufficient data for an accurate assessment because of communication failures, its predictive functions should have been used, the report said.
The government also erred in keeping data on the spread of radiation from the public. “Information on urgent matters was delayed, press releases were withheld, and explanations were kept ambiguous,” the report concluded.
The report by Hatamura, professor emeritus at University of Tokyo, serves as a time line for the chaos that ensued when the record magnitude-9 earthquake knocked out power and buckled roads before the tsunami flooded backup generators. Radiation fallout from the reactors forced the evacuation of about 160,000 people. The government has yet to say how many can return and when.
Jun Oshima, a spokesman for Tepco, declined to comment on the report as the utility is checking the contents, he said.
Hotlines between the central control room and the reactor buildings worked following the quake, while workers outside the buildings could use a total of nine transceivers, spokesman Masato Yamaguchi said yesterday. The company added 29 transceivers on March 13 and 80 more on March 15, Yamaguchi said.
Failed Procedures More
Tuesday, December 27, 2011
Fukushima Intrim Report: - SNAFU
Eight NISA officials: Fuck this were gone.